Friday, October 3, 2014

Prompting Our Students to Write about Art

Reflection is a very important component of the creative process. As we look back on the work we have created, we find aspects of it that are sometimes surprising, make connections to what others have done, and discover ways that we have applied innovative approaches to our process. We learn to think like artists by thinking about how we get our ideas (generating), how we interpret ideas (interpreting), and how we put those ideas into action (conceptualizing). These words are in bold because they are intrinsic to "creating" and integral to the new NCCAS standards.

In my presentation for the NAEA Virtual Conference, for Elementary level, focused on "Creating," I shared a way that we reflect in the art classroom. Using an "exit slip" as the tactic, students write a reflection prompted by a set of questions that I post.

We want to use essential questions: questions that direct students to aspects of strategy not a specific skill, about their thinking, and how they approached the problems in an original way. If we are trying to get students to reflect upon how they came up with ideas, how they interpreted those ideas, and how they conceptualized them, we can simply ask those questions:
Where did you (the artist) get your ideas?
How did you come up with a way to solve the problem? (or create the work?)
How did the medium (watercolor, collage, etc.) affect the process?
How did you communicate your ideas? Give examples.
How effective were those methods (technique, media, process) at communicating your ideas?
Depending on your group of students, they may choose one or more to answer. We can also encourage our students to find their own questions. By engaging our students in the conversations about art and art making, they will develop an ability to generate their own essential questions. Using an "Admit One" slip at the start of class, we can encourage students to write a question to ask of the artists during their work in class. These can then be posted and accessible to students while they create.
What are some ways you encourage students to reflect on their work as they work?
A great additional resource is the book, Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, which can supplement the enduring questions and essential questions found directly in the NCCAS standards.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Is a Divergent Outcome?

Younger students may not fully understand the word "divergent" when it is used to express the multiple possibilities in our thinking and our work. Often, responses (in other classrooms) are expected to be exact--it's either right or wrong. However, in an art classroom, we have the opportunity to explore the range of responses by individual artists while still providing the structure we need to assess their progress and process.

In my recent presentation for the NAEA Virtual Conference, held September 27-28th, 2014, I shared different scenarios for TASK at the elementary level. In this scenario, we are demonstrating how the same constraints can create diverse outcomes with different artists. Here is the TASK, presented to my 3rd grade students: (I read it to them as they applied the constraints to their work, then posted it)

1. Draw a wavy line from edge to edge
2. Draw a zigzag line from edge to edge
3. Draw a straight line from edge to edge
4. Draw a circle
5. Draw a square
6. Draw a triangle

This exercise is one many of us have used to determine our students' understanding of vocabulary, and application of concepts in their work. Here I am using it to demonstrate to them how we can all interpret information in different ways, and conceptualize ideas for divergent outcomes. We are also using it as part of a bigger project, for our Pinwheels for Peace event!

In progress work:
Completed work:

We did a gallery walk at the completion of this project, so that students could see what "divergent" means. While we applied the same constraints to the work, each artist conceptualized those constraints in different ways.

How do you help students understand what the expectations are?